World’s Largest Orchestra 2010

March 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm (music) (, , , , , , )

I’ve taken part in two ‘World’s Largest Orchestra’ events in the past … One was in 1996, at Symphony Hall, when we played a piece by Howard Blake (the guy who wrote the Snowman music).  The conductor was Sir Simon Rattle.  Unfortunately this attempt was disqualified as the music didn’t last long enough.

The second was in 1998 at the National Indoor Arena, and the music was Sir Malcolm Arnold‘s ‘Little Suite No 2’, again with Sir Simon Rattle conducting.  This time it did count, and the record stood at nearly 4000 musicians.  However, the record didn’t last long, as it was broken again in 2000 by a group in Vancouver.

Well, the attempt is coming back to the UK now, and work has started organising it for a day in October this year.  They need around 7000 people to take part.

So, if you play, or are keen to take part, take a look at their website – or their Facebook Group.


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Mobile Phone back channel at concerts

March 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm (art, internet, music) (, , , , , , , , , )

There have been a couple of occasions recently where I’ve had a difference highlighted to me between the times when I used to perform in concerts at school and kids performing in concerts today.  The difference I am talking about here is the mobile phone.

I’ve seen presentations where people are using social media as a back channel, for example using twitter to provide live feedback or discussion to presenters.  Its quite a different style of presenting, giving the presenter a chance to tailor their presentation to the audience … or giving the audience a chance to gang up on the presenter if things don’t go well!

However, I’ve now started to see times when what could be considered a more traditional concert is augmented by the use of (silent of course) mobile phones.  In the first instance, daughter was performing, and we happened to have the misfortune of having the guy with the biggest hair in the group sitting in front of her, right between us!  So a quick text later, and daughter shifts her chair on stage and all is good (yes, the phone was in her pocket whilst on stage).

In the second instance, I was watching another performance in an informal setting, and could see a number of people sending texts to each other.  How good would it be to have an official mobile-driven back channel at a classical concert, where performance notes could be published and the audience could engage in discussion about the music.  Sort of like a live version of the teletext programme notes that accompany performances on BBC 3 (or 4?), but with an added chat part too.

You see a little of this going on in virtual worlds.  There are many instances of ‘live’ performances in the virtual world of Second Life for example, and during the concert, where avatars are dancing, sitting or standing ‘watching’ a performance, with the music streamed to their owner’s PCs, there is usually quite a bit of chatter.  Both private chat as in instant messaging, but also group public chat going on. Its quiet, it doesn’t interfere with the music and it enhances the performances by providing a live context to what is going on.  There are lots of other uses for back channels in virtual world events too.

It would be really interesting to see if this kind of thing will start happening in real, more traditional, live concerts.  There have been one or two ‘dipping of toes’ into this area already.  The ENO for example, has Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.  However, I’m not aware that social media back channels have started to appear at concerts and performances yet (if you know otherwise, do send me a reference or link).

(Maybe the 21st century equivalent of John Cage’s 4’33” would be a large screen showing a twitter feed).

I think that, in general terms,  when it starts happening, it would be a good thing.


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Joseph and the Amazing Catalogue of Musical Styles …

March 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm (kids, music) (, , , , )

The kids are learning the school’s version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolo(u)r Dreamcoat, so we’ve been listening to it again recently. Only we have the full version on CD, and every time I hear it it makes me smile to hear all the musical cliches that ALW managed to get into one piece of music.

You have the country-style ‘one more angel in heaven‘, the 20’s style ‘Potiphar‘, the early incarnation of Elvis as pharaoh, the stereotypically French ‘Canaan days‘, Benjamin’s Calypso and of course all the other famous numbers.  Personally, I like Grovel, grovel the best … a great song!

Its also great to see someone like the Really Useful Company (ALW’s company) put official videos up on YouTube!  Also shows how far social media has come in the last few years.

If you haven’t listened to it since school yourself, its well worth getting it out again.  Just don’t take it too seriously.  Lots of fun.


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Virtual Revolution

March 1, 2010 at 10:16 pm (internet) (, , , , , , )

I’ve just finished watching the BBC’s Virtual Revolution programmes.  These were presented by Aleks Krotoski and shown on 4 consecutive Saturday evenings a month or so ago.

It follows the evolution of the Internet from its humble beginnings as the ARPANET and a collection of academic networks, through the non-commercial era, to the dot-com boom and bust.  Finally, it talks about how people like Amazon and Google worked out how to make money from the Internet by exploiting out information in exchange for us using their services for free.  We get the benefits of the services and haven’t really had any negative impact, yet, from giving up our personal information to them.

The final programme looks at the whole issue of online social networks such as Facebook and looks at some of the, as yet unknown, future effects on society.

One interesting conclusion, well discussion but looking like a conclusion, is that the web seems to be encouraging more associative brain functions than linear … people prefering short, associated chunks of information rather than large, linear books.  This is one reason that many of ‘generation web’ don’t read books!

A very interesting series.


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